An affidavit is a written statement sworn to, before one who is authorized to administer an oath. Such authorized person may be a judge, a prosecutor (fiscal) or a notary public. The statement is usually a recollection of what transpired, as observed by the affiant (the person who makes the statement); or it is a statement of what the affiant did. It is, therefore, what is also termed as testimonial evidence (evidence in the form of statements of a witness). The only difference between an affidavit and oral testimony in court, is the fact that testimony in court can stand alone, while an affidavit needs to be affirmed in court.
Statements being a recollection of what transpired, or what was done, are subject to the ravages of time on memory, or the more pressing concerns of daily life. Some events are indelibly etched in our memory - a first kiss, the birth of a child, or the pain of losing a loved one; others are less permanent – a political science lecture, some passerby on the street, or what one wore nine days ago.
It is for that reason that testimonial evidence carries less weight compared to physical, or documentary evidence. By physical evidence, we mean fingerprints, DNA, bloodstains, and the like. Documentary evidence refers to contracts, birth certificates, bid documents, and other written material kept in the ordinary course of business.
Considering the diminished weight of testimonial evidence, the fixation of Philippine authorities on affidavits and other testimonial evidence is a puzzlement (apologies to author of “The King and I”).
The fixation on testimonial evidence is revealed in the Dacer-Corbito case, with regard to testimonies of Alex Dilloy et al, and the striptease affidavit of the current centerfold, Cezar Ochoco Mancao.
Forgotten in the mire of he said/they said, is the physical evidence, or the lack of it. The physical evidence consists of a few bones, which have tested negative for human DNA. Did Dacer have bulalo for dinner? Maybe, but where are his remains?
The line being peddled is that the flesh and bones have been burned beyond recognition, like ashes from a crematorium. This, the prosecution gathers, from the testimony of the Alex Dilloy y Buladas (note Buladas) that after strangulation, the bodies were placed on top of a file (sic – pile) of wood and some old tires and lit with gasoline (Direct Examination, Alex Dilloy, page 43 and 44, June 14, 2007).
The people of India, who have cremated their dead with firewood for centuries, are the experts on this matter. Their experts state that to burn an adult body completely, in open air, 400 to 600 kilos of firewood, logs, preferably, would be needed (http://www.sustdev.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1969&Itemid=36). For the bodies of both Dacer and Corbito, then, one would need 800 to 1200 kilos. That is one two to tons of firewood (1,760 to 2,640 pounds); that is about as heavy as a Volkswagen beetle.
We need not even go very far. Anybody who has roasted a lechon on a spit will tell you that it takes a lot of wood to properly cook a lechon, so that there won’t be blood on the bones; let alone, char the pig beyond recognition. And if the fire were intense enough to grind the skull to ashes, the same heat should have melted the dental implants found by Dr. Fortun. Miraculously, however, the metal dental plates survived, which is the only means by which the victims were identified. Miraculously, too, one metal dental plate from each “victim”, survived the skull grinding heat (Letter of Raquel Fortun to Dir. Wycoco, April 11, 2001). The search by Dr. Fortun was conducted on April 7, 2001, six months after the bodies were burned on November 24, 2000.
That the firewood gathered in only a few minutes is not sufficient to char a body beyond recognition is proven in the case of People v. Alexio Lupango G.R. No. L-32633 November 12, 1981, “The evidence of the prosecution discloses that the victim, Teresa Vda, de lglesia, was burned in a fire that razed her house..” “The charred body of the victim Mrs. Teresa Vda. de Iglesia was recovered from the burned house and autopsied..”; and the remains were intact enough for the medico-legal to determine that the cause of death was fracture of the skull, prior to burning. In other words, despite the entire house having burned down, the body was not charred beyond recognition, nor were the skull and bones pulverized.
But the clincher for Senator Lacson and his men, ironically, is a case that then Senior Supt. Lacson lost in the Supreme Court.
In the case of Diosdado Jose Allado and Roberto L. Mendoza v. Hon. Roberto C. Diokno, G.R. No. 113630 May 5, 1994, Allado and Mendoza were accused of the heinous crime of kidnapping with murder, on the strength of an extrajudicial confession executed by Escolastico Umbal. Umbal claimed that the victim, Van Twest, was shot in the chest with a baby armalite, stabbed several times, and his cadaver burned into fine ashes using gasoline and rubber tires.
In its decision, the Supreme Court observed: “The Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (headed by Lacson) relies heavily on the sworn statement of Security Guard Umbal who supposedly confessed his participation in the alleged kidnapping and murder of Van Twest. For one, there is serious doubt on Van Twest's reported death since the corpus delicti has not been established, nor have his remains been recovered. Umbal claims that Van Twest was completely burned into ashes with the use of gasoline and rubber tires from around ten o'clock in the evening to six o'clock the next morning. This is highly improbable, if not ridiculous. A human body cannot be pulverized into ashes by simply burning it with the use of gasoline and rubber tires in an open field. Even crematoria use entirely closed incinerators where the corpse is subjected to intense heat. Thereafter, the remains undergo a process where the bones are completely ground to dust.”
The Supreme Court went further and held that: “To allege then that the body of Van Twest was completely burned to ashes in an open field with the use merely of tires and gasoline is a tale too tall to gulp.”
It is equally a tale too tall to gulp, that with the aid of some stray firewood, old tires, and coconut leaves, the skull and bones of Dacer and Corbito were pulverized. There being no evidence of their remains, or evidence that their bodies were completely destroyed, one cannot maintain a prosecution for murder.
In the case of Allado, the Supreme Court held that the absence of Van Twest's body renders the case without probable cause. It, therefore, issued a writ of prohibition prohibiting the RTC from further proceedings in the case.
Your move, Atty. Alex Avisado. Checkmate Raul.